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How to ease your morning sickness

How to ease your morning sickness


Morning sickness is an age old complaint. Therefore it has a long history of proposed remedies and tips on how to relieve it. Most suggestions include dietary changes, sometimes with natural therapies and if the sickness is quite severe, your caregiver may offer you medical treatments.

Morning sickness is such an individual experience for each woman that the effectiveness of most remedies and treatments will vary from woman to woman. You may find it is a matter of trying a few different approaches, before you settle on something that works for you. The following are some current suggested remedies and treatments for morning sickness:

Lifestyle choices

Changing what you eat and when you eat it is often the key to keeping morning sickness under control. Some of these changes can include:

  • Eating small meals regularly (5 to 6 times per day) rather than 3 large meals. This keeps your blood sugar levels more even and stops you from overfilling your stomach. Take time to eat and chew your food thoroughly. You may like to carry around a few snacks to munch on during the day such as dry biscuits, nuts or fruit. Try to eat something light before you go to bed at night and again first thing when you wake up. Some women find eating a dry, plain water cracker or a plain piece of toast, a cup of tea or a glass of non-acidic juice (such as apple or pear juice) first thing in the morning helps (½ an hour before getting out of bed if possible). When you do get out of bed, do this slowly.
  • Eating complex carbohydrates such as cracker biscuits, breads, toast, rice, potatoes and pasta. These increase your blood sugar levels and maintain them for longer periods of time in your system, rather than sweet, sugary foods that tend to only provide short bursts of energy. Avoid fatty and spicy foods and anything you have an aversion to at this time. Some women find umeboshi plums (pickled Asian plums) help. 
  • Separating your food and drinks at meals. Some women find that eating and drinking fluids in one eating session aggravates their morning sickness. Try to avoid drinking anything at least ½ an hour before or after you eat. Don't reduce your fluid intake, as you don't want to become dehydrated. You may prefer 'liquid meals' such as banana smoothies or fresh fruit and vegetable juices. Mineral waters and sports drinks can also help balance the body's mineral intake. Some liquid remedies may include lemon and honey drinks, hot water with milk and honey or a teaspoon of cider vinegar in hot water with honey.
  • Look at the stresses in your life and how you honestly feel about being pregnant. Share how you feel with someone you trust or seek out counselling if you feel this will help. Deep breathing, yoga, meditation, massage, or relaxation exercises may be beneficial. Organise some time off from work or mothering. Try to rest or look at strategies to take the pressure off. Some women will use visualisations or listen to relaxation tapes. 

Natural therapies

The following are some natural therapies that some women have found helpful:

Vitamin B6

Recent studies have shown that Vitamin B6 (also known as 'Pyridoxine') can be quite effective in reducing nausea, but not necessarily vomiting. Caregivers may prescribe about 10-20 mgs three times a day. Check with your caregiver before supplementing.

Ginger

There is some research evidence that ginger is beneficial. This can be eaten fresh in foods or in a powdered form (about 1 gram daily) in water. You may prefer flat ginger ale, ginger sweets or ginger biscuits or cookies. Some women cut up fresh ginger and place it in boiling water to make a ginger tea. You can also chew crystallised ginger (available from health food stores).

Lollipops

There are some lollipops now on the market aimed to specifically relieve morning sickness. They are made with natural ingredients and include flavours such as ginger, sours (raspberry, lemon and tangerine), peppermint and spearmint. Some women find they help and they would work towards preventing your blood glucose level getting too low.

Acupressure

There is some evidence that the acupressure point PC6 ('Neiguan') helps. This is a point on the inside of the wrist that seasickness wristbands place pressure on. You can obtain these wristbands from chemists or natural health stores or you can intermittently place pressure on this point yourself when feeling sick.

The wrist point is on the inside of the arm, about 3 finger widths above the wrist crease, between the tendons. Pressure is placed on the point firmly, usually until you feel some relief. This may take up to five minutes or so to be effective. You can repeat pressure on the point when necessary to either or both wrists. You may like to use a blunt object such as the end of a pen, rather than your finger.

Hypnosis

Some women find hypnosis helpful. This may be something that also helps you to manage stress and perhaps becomes part of your preparation for the labour and birth.

Herbal

Herbalists may suggest teas such as peppermint, anise and fennel seed or chamomile. Some may advise slippery elm before meals to help settle the stomach. Herbal remedies can include ginger, wild yam root, dandelion root and others. You may be offered raspberry leaf tea or tablets, but this can cause nausea in some women and many caregivers advise against using it during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Check with your caregiver.

Homoeopathy

Depending on your individual symptoms, homoeopaths may prescribe a range of treatments including Ipecacuana, Nux Vomica, Sepia or Pulsatilla. See your homoeopath for an individual assessment.

Aromatherapy

Essential oils are generally not recommended during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. However, if your pregnancy is more advanced than this your aromatherapist may suggest a drop of lavender on your pillow at night or placing a few drops of spearmint or ginger oil in a bowl of boiling water or vapouriser near your bed to breathe, to help calm your stomach. (Usually only used for 3 consecutive nights). Peppermint oil used to be recommended, but it is now considered toxic during pregnancy.

Medical treatments

If you can tolerate your morning sickness without the use of medications, this is ideal. Many medications normally used to stop nausea and vomiting in people who are not pregnant are generally not proven to be safe during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Debendox (or 'Bendectin' in the USA) was prescribed from about 1964 for morning sickness but was withdrawn from sale in 1983 due to the claim it caused birth defects. This was despite many research studies that failed to confirm a definite link between human birth defects and the use of Debendox. However, the pharmaceutical company could not definitely prove that it didn't cause birth defects and animal tests showed an increase in limb deformities. Since this time there has been a reluctance to prescribe new medications to women during early pregnancy for morning sickness.

One group of medications that may be prescribed by doctors for severe cases of morning sickness are 'antihistamines'. Examples of these are 'meclozine', 'promethazine' or 'prochlorperazine'. So far there appears to be no adverse effects on the baby by the small amount of research carried out. Antihistamines may be prescribed as a tablet or administered as an injection if you are vomiting excessively. Antihistamines do cause drowsiness and some women will experience blurred vision.

Another commonly prescribed medication is Maxalon (Metoclopramide hydrochloride) also known as 'Reglan' or 'Maxeron' in other countries. Again, like antihistamines, this is usually for severe cases of morning sickness and so far there appears to be no adverse effects on the baby by the small amount of research carried out. Maxalon may be prescribed as a tablet or administered as an injection if you are vomiting excessively and can cause drowsiness and diarrhoea as well as increase the production of the prolactin hormone (for breast milk production). That is why it is sometimes prescribed for use after the birth. Other side effects may include dizziness, headache and a dry mouth.

Depending on what reference books you use, both Maxalon and antihistamines may be listed as Category A or Category B drugs. Our latest book has them as Category B's. As with any medication, their use during pregnancy needs to weigh up the possible benefits against any small possible risks. 

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